Santorini on a Shoestring

The name Santorini is likely to have captured your imagination long before you even set eyes on the islands that make up this tiny archipelago at the southern end of the Cyclades chain. Famed for the spectacular sunsets that wash over whitewashed villages perched on precipitous clifftops, turning them rose and gold in the gloaming, it is very much on the tourist trail through the Greek islands.IMG_3809v2head

Chances are your impression is also that Santorini has an air of exclusivity around it, somewhere only for the rich and famous, or a romantic destination just for honeymoon couples, with a price tag to match. If you must watch the sunset from a private balcony, cocktail in hand, or dip in an infinity pool on the caldera rim to make your stay special, that’s certainly true. However, it is possible to visit Santorini on a shoestring budget, and have an unforgettable experience. Continue reading

Another Day in Paradise at the Eden Project (Photo Gallery)

My last post about the Eden Project just didn’t contain enough pictures to do justice to the amazing displays, fantastic flowers and informative interpretation. So here’s a selection of pictures to guide you through the different biomes.  Continue reading

In the Garden of Eden

The Biomes, The Eden Project
The Biomes, The Eden Project

Hidden in an old china clay pit near St Austell in Cornwall are three enormous interlinked geodesic domes, like the secret greenhouse hideaway of a villainous horticulturist from a Bond film*: the Eden Project. Describing itself variously as the world’s largest conservatory, an exciting educational playground, and an inspiring environmental resource, the Eden Project is a huge garden, both outdoors and inside, which highlights our human interconnectivity with the natural world.

Continue reading

2014 Travel Resolution #4: Travel More

Wanderlust, by adventurediva on Flickr.

Happy February! How did last month manage to pass so quickly? I have no idea. So slightly later than I intended, especially as it’s no longer January, here is my final suggestion for a resolution to make 2014 a brilliant year for travel.

#4. Travel More.

Ha, that sounds terribly simple advice, but please don’t think this last resolution is a cop-out and I couldn’t be bothered any more. A lot of us are tied down to a number of commitments, family, work, pets or property, that means the lifestyle of a full-time traveller is one we can only follow vicariously through reading blogs and browsing pintrest. But travel is all about your mindset, and I want to show you it’s possible to have amazing travel experiences with limited time. Here are my top 5 tips: Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas #11: The Night of the Radishes

I’m writing this from the half-way stop on our epic trek home to my parents house for the Christmas holiday.  In the morning we’ll have to drive north for another four hours or so, depending on the wind and snow, and whether roads stay open.

Welcome to Oaxaca! Image from mexconnect.com

Before we all get overwhelmed by Christmas celebrations, I have to mention a fantastic festival I discovered that takes place every 23rd of December, in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Tonight is the Night of the Radishes, Noche de Rábanos, (not the title of a low budget horror film) a festival which attracts thousands of people each year, often spilling over onto Christmas eve and Christmas day.

Celebrations often include a float parade, street parties, firework displays and musical performances. The centrepiece of the event is an exhibition of sculptures crafted from specially-grown radishes.

You might be forgiven for thinking that a radish is far too tiny to carve, but these giants are left in the ground for months after the harvest, continuing to grow until they reach sizes of up to half a metre long and up to 3kg in weight, contorted into weird and wonderful shapes. Sculptors carve the vegetables into human figures, nativity scenes, dioramas of folktales, and scale models of real buildings and compete for a grand prize worth thousands of Pesos

Christmas isn’t Christmas without some skeletons carved from root vegetables. Image from soiledandseeded.com

12 Days of Christmas #10: Christmas Feasting

Sprouts. Spoiling Christmas since 1700 or something. Image from goodtoknow.co.uk

There’s less than 3 days left to Christmas, I hope you’ve got the brussel sprouts on to boil.  No?  Never mind, leave it a day or so and you can get them started for next year, so the old festive joke about soggy, bitter sprouts goes.

But love them or loathe them, are brussel sprouts really an essential part of a Christmas dinner?  Or are they punishment for being naughty over the rest of the year?  I’m a definite believer in the latter, so tonight’s post is all about some tasty alternatives from around the world; things that I’d much rather see served up on the table than soggy sprouts and dry, bland turkey, followed by stodgy Christmas pudding with sickly-sweet brandy sauce. Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas #7: Christmas Cake

Yesterday I baked my Christmas cake; a dark, rich cake full of rum-soaked dried fruits.  A traditional type of cake.  Today I poked a few holes in it, and fed it some more rum, then covered it in a thick layer of marzipan.  Tomorrow I’ll ice and decorate it.  I haven’t really considered decorating ideas yet, but it will not be a complicated design.  I might have to browse through Pinterest for some inspiration first.

Making special cakes, pastries, cookies and breads is a Christmas tradition shared by many cultures.  Well-known treats include panettone from Italy, lebkuchen and stollen from Germany, Yule logs (bûche de Noël) from France and St. Lucia buns from Sweden.  But I’ve also discovered that Japan has it’s own version of a Christmas cake, using very different ingredients to the traditional fruit and spice flavours common in European baking.

I know it’s just a cake, but how cute? image from justapinch.com

Japanese Christmas cake (Kurisumasu keki) is a light vanilla flavoured sponge cake smothered in fresh, whipped cream and decorated with fresh strawberries.  Traditionally these are bought and eaten on Christmas Eve.  It sounds delicious, however for us here in the UK, strawberries and cream are flavours that will always be associated with the summer (in particular, watching the tennis at Wimbledon).

Christmas cake also has another meaning for the Japanese.  The freshness of the cake’s ingredients means that they don’t keep very well, and are no good  after the 25th.  Leftover cakes are unwanted, and this analogy has often been applied to women that remain unmarried after their 25th birthday.  Basically, the Japanese term “Christmas cake” means spinster or old maid!

The Great Debate

There’s nothing us Brits enjoy more than a nice cup of tea in the afternoon.  And down in the south-western corner of the UK, they’ve raised it to an art form with the creation of the cream tea.  But although the component parts are pretty much agreed upon, there is a great debate over how these are assembled to make the ultimate cream tea. Continue reading